Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 06.30.17

Copper Point Drawing and Da Vinci: A STEAM - Renaissance Connection

From: Carrie Jeruzal

As June quickly slips into July, I find myself happily reminiscing about an amazing Professional Development experience that I had last year at the 2016 Summer Teacher Institute at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"The Teacher Institute is a six-day seminar that helps K–12 teachers (of all subjects) strengthen their knowledge of art history and integrate visual art into classroom teaching. The program features lectures, gallery tours, teaching strategies, and hands-on learning experiences."

This was my classroom for 6 days:


I would highly recommend this experience to all art teachers, (really any teacher), that can connect curriculum back to the NGA’s featured collection and is looking for an authentic, enriching and inspiring professional development experience.  The variety of instruction, resources and time with the art is really unparalleled.  I met 24 other wonder colleagues from around the country and I am confident they would say the same! 

The theme of the 2016 Institute was, The Renaissance.  Throughout the course I immediately saw strong correlations between the ideals and philosophies of the Renaissance and the methodologies of the Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics, (STEAM), art education movement.  I began to see Leonardo Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists like him as the original STEAM innovators.  

I made many curriculum connections from the knowledge that I gained at the NGA Institute, but for this blog post I would like to focus in on one in particular, Copper Point Drawing.  Before my NGA Institute I have to admit that I did not even know that the metalpoint technique existed!  I quickly learned that Renaissance artists like Da Vinci used to draw on a grounded surface, (usually gesso made from ground animal bones), using a drawing instrument that we might call a silver “stylus” today.  It was a kind of pencil with a silver “lead” instead of graphite or charcoal.  The silver would scratch the surface of the gesso, leaving a very fine, delicate, soft image.  Lines scratched in the surface of the gesso would retain residual silver and that silver would oxidize over time thus slightly darkening the image as it aged.  There is no erasing this medium but the artist could draw darker lines over other  lines and even paint over them, allowing the silverpoint drawing to function as a kind of preliminary sketch or as an under-the-painting-drawing.  The silverpoint drawings are minimal in color but communicate artist intentionality in a gentle and intimate way.

Here is a silverpoint drawing by Da vinci:


To begin my Junior High / High School STEAM lesson I introduced my students to the scientific studies and meticulous medical illustrations by Da Vinci.  We discussed the importance of observational drawing for scientific purposes.  We looked at Da Vinci’s drawing of a dog’s leg compared to that of a man as well as other examples from his journals. 

Then I gave students the chance to do the same type of scientific/artistic observation.  Silver was out our price range so I fashioned copper styluses instead by stripping copper utility wires donated by a parent that works in construction.  I cut them 3 inches long or so, and then taped them to thick, unsharpened primary pencils with adjustable electrical tape.  I prepared pieces of gessoed mat boards and borrowed a whole slew of bones, both animal and human, both genuine and faux, from the science department. I discussed with students the importance of treating the remains with dignity and respect as they once belonged to living creatures in order to avoid misuse and inappropriate handling.  Finally, students were given the opportunity to draw the bones from close observation using the copper point technique.  To enrich the experience and authenticate it further to the Renaissance time period, I invited a local guest musician to come in and play Renaissance music on a lute while students drew.  Aside from cell phones and laptops, my classroom began to look and sound like a real Renaissance atelier! 



Because erasing isn’t possible, I gave students a number of days to experiment and build confidence with the media.  I encouraged them to practice with paper and pencil first to warm up.  Students learned that it wasn’t easy and the task required immense focus and intentionality.  Students not only had to address artistic problems such as proportion, value and texture, but they also had to think like a biologist and consider; How does this bone move? What is its purpose?  How does its shape or spatial relationship to other bones help accomplish its function?  How do different bones compare? Etc.

In this STEAM lesson inspired by the Renaissance collection at the NGA, students not only honed their drawing skills, they also practiced discovery through scientific observation and illustration.   Just as my authentic encounters with the art at the NGA inspired this curricular approach, students were given a truly Da Vinci-like experience.     



Monday 06.26.17

Redesign: Make it Bad, Then Make it Better

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect…. 

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a bake sale during a community event as a fundraiser for a field trip. I don’t have much confidence or experience in baking so I thought this one “treat recipe” that I found online would be cute, easy and perfect for a busy mom like me. Well, it wasn’t so easy and I messed it up terribly. Turns out candy kisses look the same slightly melted as they do burnt and one should not let them stay in the oven, “just a little bit longer!” 

So I took a deep breath, ate some burnt chocolate, regained my strength and senses and decided to persist by getting creative with my odd sense of humor. So, tongue-in-cheek, I created a new recipe embracing the struggle. I called it,

Mommy Can't Bake Mix

Step 1: Wait till the last minute to make baked goods for your daughter's bake sale. Go to the store at night when most of the other crazies and overworked moms are out. Step 2: Look up easy recipe on phone that literally requires two minutes of baking time. Step 3: Screw up baking and throw tantrum / blame husband for no reason. Step 4: Pout for a minimum of 5 minutes. Step 5: Think to self, "Failure is Impossible,"- Susan B Anthony. Step 6: Throw failed ingredients into a bag anyway along with random treats found in cupboard like pretzels, m&ms, crackers, marshmallows, croutons, cough drops, glitter, etc. Step 7: Get computer genius husband to make cute labels. Step 8: Put it on social media like a legit baking mom would. The end.


If these treats were going to be bad, I was going to make them really bad. It became fun and funny. They became a novelty. I hoped people would buy them, not for the “treat” that was inside, but for the clever concept behind them. I ended up selling 5 bags! Turns out homemade brownies taste and sell better than clever concepts, however, I still counted success points in creativity!   

So, what did I learn from this “lemons to lemonade” moment, and how did I apply it to art education? I learned that when the objective of a problem becomes to make something really bad, the doors of humor and creativity become wide open. That’s where I got the idea for my middle school “Redesign” learning unit.

I start by introducing my students to the concept of object/product design, design thinking and the design process. We look at examples of everyday objects and talk about the differences between good design and bad design depending on factors such as the object’s intended use, intended customer, cost of materials, durability, demand, etc. All students share a story of a time when a product broke or failed. We also look at and describe the evolution of a product’s  design such as a car, the telephone and the vacuum cleaner. Students get concrete examples as to how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life through these product designs. Then it’s time for students to engage in a 2-4 day performance task.

I start the task by asking students to all select a different everyday-manmade-designed-object by having them cut one out of a magazine ad. I have also modified the task by asking all students to start with the same object such as a shoe. I have instructed students both ways and by settling on one object for everyone to focus on I do sacrifice the variety of outcomes, but I also save on time and the need for cutting and pasting materials. Either way, once the object is selected students are asked to reflect upon and explain the current relationship of the object to everyday life.

Then begins the fun part. Instruct students to make it bad. Invite them to redesign the product so that it is truly terrible by transforming it into something impractical, unappealing, and/or harder to use. In order to do this, the student must recognize the object’s intended use and successful design attributes and design against them. I tell my students that as long as their ideas are school appropriate, (no potty humor, nothing mean spirited or overly violent), that there are no limits to their creativity! At first some of my more regimented students don’t quite understand me, they don’t believe that I’m actually telling them to make something bad. I have to clarify that they are exercising their creativity in a new way by thinking about a design problem from a fresh perspective. By exploring what makes something really bad, you in turn are also open to exploring its opposite design, what might make it really good.  Then lightbulbs. Then students sketch truly creative results that they can’t wait to share with the class.

One of my favorites created by a 6th grade girl was a design that we quickly knick-named, “Shark Shoes.” What would make a pair of shoes the most uncomfortable shoes ever? Well, the answer is tiny sharks swimming in the bottom of your shoes that would bite your toes all day, of course!  Pair that with slippery seaweed soles and fish hook laces for added discomfort and you have a terribly creative design!


Students overwhelmingly enjoy this part of the process. They will fly around the room to share their ideas with everyone and anyone, each trying to one-up the others. It’s like I’m giving them permission to be silly and a little naughty and they love it! They reflect on their design through this verbal exchange and then in writing.

Then the next day the instructions flip. Students are asked to reimagine the design of their object to be even better than the current design. They must solve the problem of how to improve it. Again, there are no restraints to their creativity and they must reflect upon their design once it is complete. Below is a “good design” for a shoe that can not only adjust the temperature of your feet cooler or warmer depending on comfort zone required, but can emit four different pleasant fragrances including lavender and grape fizz from a secret compartment in the heel.


In conclusion, instructing to develop student creativity doesn’t always take a safe and expected path. Just like in real life, approaching a problem from a fresh point of view can open our minds and force us to think in new and interesting ways. Design problems can be fun and silly. Our best ideas sometimes arise from our failures when we give ourselves and our students the opportunity to flip the measure of success.   

This task is one that I wrote for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. Here are links to the complete task booklets available on the MAEIA website.

Teacher Booklet
Student Booklet


Monday 06.12.17

6 Reasons to have a Stress-free Summer Student Art Show!

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Remember that art show that you put together in (insert month), at the same time you were teaching (insert number), different classes each day, coaching or advising (insert after school activity), as well as dealing with that one personal drama (insert any problem of humanity), all at the same time? Remember selecting artwork, organizing, matting, mounting it on the walls and hoping it doesn’t fall down, labeling, typing up artist statements and filling out other paperwork still spelling that one student’s name incorrectly, sending home letters and invitations to parents, notifying and typing up a press release for the local newspaper, posting it all over social media, coordinating judges, handing out awards, making cookies and punch for the reception, and finally hoping that your students, parents, staff and administrators have time to take notice in between all of their usual duties and disasters in order to marvel at the art and appreciate it all? That’s a lot of work, right? Even though many of us don’t get paid for coordinating art exhibits, and the endeavor of putting together a student art show is completely stressful, I think many of us can agree it is also completely worthwhile. What if you could downsize, regroup and make this process a bit more stress-free by doing it in the summer? Whether you move your one “big show” to the summer season or are looking to add in a “supplementary art show” to reach a wider audience and promote your program, this blog post asks you to consider just that and offers 6 reasons why you might want to give it a try!


1. You have the time.

To say teachers don’t work in the summer is really a farce. In the summer teachers may take Masters level courses, attend or instruct Professional Development sessions, work on organizing their classrooms, plan and write curriculum, get a summer job and/or become full time caretakers of their own families. But the school work done in the summer is typically well balanced, reflective, mindful, and re-energising. It’s not as fast paced or taxing. You can actually choose to focus in on a single task instead of feeling the strain of being pulled in multiple directions. A Summer Student Art Show provides you with the option of putting together an exhibit at a time when you are typically not bogged down with a million other school related duties. You aren’t in a rush. As long as you remember to hold back from sending all the artwork home in June, you actually have time to be mindful of the curation and installation processes. Getting the work done at a slower summer pace means you may even enjoy it!   

Flyer: Social Justice Issues: Art Objects and Installations
Flyer: Traveling Art Exhibit: Character Creature Features!

2. It can be small, flexible, manageable and non-competitive.

The summer art show does not have to feature one piece from each student, keep it small. I recommend that you perhaps discern by featuring a single class, a single assignment or narrow your number of artworks under a unifying theme. Perhaps your selected pieces need to simply fit in the venue space provided or be strictly 2D or 3D. Either way you decide to structure your show, set it for a time that works for you. Set it up when you can and take it down when you can. With three months to choose from, coordinating with a venue in the summer can be much more relaxed than during the school year when other teachers are also trying to “fit it all in”. Consider making the show unjuried; non-competitive. This removes a whole layer of pressure for both you and the students. It’s less work for you and allows for more freedom in selecting conceptual pieces that might not be your typical “judge-pleasers.”

3. The venue needs you.

Get the art out of the school. Select a venue that gets some summer traffic. Contact your local arts council, public library, theater, or bank. The venue can be non-traditional. If it doesn’t work out that you have access to a typical gallery space, settle for alternative display spaces such as lobbies, waiting rooms, and vestibules. You may find that your little art show is just what the venue needed to fill a void while professional artists are busy claiming summer residencies or caravaning through art fairs. Whatever the arrangement, the venue can only benefit from the summer flair of student artwork.  

4. It gives your students’ art a wider audience and advocates for your program.

I first started doing small summer student art shows three years ago when I felt the overwhelming need to offer my students’ work to a wider audience. At first it was 7th grade/3rd grade technology based collaborations that triggered student-made videos through Augmented Reality. And then it was powerful visual metaphors for Social Justice Issues created by my high school students. Their art was so good and so powerful I was compelled to get it out of the school and share it with the world. Also it was a solution to timing and space. Artwork that is created in the Spring was too late to fit into my annual Spring art shows and much of it didn’t actually physically fit into the art display cases. The summer show gave this work and these students the opportunity to share with the greater community which in turn advocates the quality and necessity of my art program.   

5. Reception optional.

Don’t have a reception. Or do. Consider this element of a student art show as a nicety that isn’t always necessary. Try a set it and forget it approach. People are busy in the summer, especially high school students with summer jobs, so allow them and the community to view the artwork at their convenience whenever the venue is open to accommodate its usual summer clientele. If you can arrange the artwork to be on display for a month or more it’s likely that more people will see it over a longer period of time rather than all in the same night or week anyway. This way you can avoid giving a speech, baking all those cookies, cookie fingerprints on the art and all the inevitable awkward conversations with parents (I’m terrible at small talk!). However, if you do chose to hold an official show opening or reception try to couple it with another event at the venue instead of a stand-alone soirée. This way you can share a budget for food and advertisement, accommodate the venue’s schedule and once again attract a wider audience.   

6. It elevates collaborative art.

In education today, we as educators, are facing tremendous pressure to embed collaborative learning in our classrooms. Yet there are very few opportunities for collaborative art to be displayed in traditional art shows. Collaborative artwork is inconvenient to judge and makes awarding prizes, scholarships, and traveling opportunities expensive or impossible. There may only be one ribbon to hand out, one scholarship to award or one opportunity for a free master class. I am happy to report that the Vans Custom Culture Contest and the Meijer Great Choices Film Festival are two exceptions to this rule against collaborative projects, but still, these platforms are very specific in media and process. Plus, they are highly competitive. Collaborative learning is research based, inclusive and offers insight into the “team process” that is practiced by most renowned art contemporaries. Consider that artist Ai Weiwei didn’t make all those ceramic sunflower seeds by himself, so why should we as art teachers only honor student artwork made by a single person? The summer art show offers the perfect solution to promote, highlight and elevate the amazing collaborative work created by my students.    


Tuesday 06. 6.17

Chunk and Bundle: The Bundled Assessment Approach for Demonstrating Teacher Effectiveness

From: Carrie A. Jeruzal

Navigating the world of assessment can be daunting, especially assessment in the arts. Arts assessments come in a variety of forms all dependent upon a variety of factors: resources available, specific arts discipline, grade level, etc. While information and research regarding assessment in the arts begins to mount, and the importance and pressure of reporting data from assessments becomes critical for demonstrating teacher effectiveness, I would like to offer up a “take a deep breath,” “let’s get organized and take it one step at a time,” practical approach to Visual Arts Assessment in the secondary classroom. Chunk it and Bundle it.

I teach K-12 Art in a small rural public school that serves just under 300 students in the entire district. I teach 2 hours of High School Art, 2 hours of Junior High Art, and 2 hours of Elementary Art each day. Just writing that makes me tired! Providing data on all these students at all of these different grade levels is too much and would literally become a full time job on its own. So to keep data management realistic I have selected a small portion of my population from which to pull my data. Since my High School students have a summative exam already worked into their semester schedule, the practical choice for me was to start with a selection of 16-25 high school students from which to pull data. That’s right, instead of trying to pull data from all 200+ of my students, I focus in on a manageable set. 

The data that I collect from these students is a bundle of 4 chunks:
    * MAEIA High School Level 1 Visual Art Performance Assessment Data
    * Digital Portfolio Performance Data using Google Classroom
    * Pre and Post Knowledge Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on
    * Pre and Post Perception Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on

This style of data collection requires forethought and organization at the very beginning of the school year. I often incorporate my assessment plans right into my curriculum maps and I store the data digitally. I also use an Student Learning Objective (SLO) document to serve as a kind of roadmap for my bundled approach. Although this type of document may not be necessary in every district, I do find getting organized in the very beginning very helpful. Also I feel using a bundled approach gives my students many options and chances for demonstrating their growth as opposed to relying upon a single assessment that may not be holistic. It’s comforting to know that my students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their growth by using 4 different assessment methods.    

MAEIA Performance Task
This year my High School year long curriculum consists of three-dimensional art and design. The MAEIA assessment that I selected was the V.T409 3-D Wire Sculpture. MAEIA stands for Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment. After administering the task to my students, I collected performance assessment data by way of digital photos submitted to students’ Google Classroom Accounts.  I also collected numeric data (point scores or grades), based on the rubric included in the MAEIA assessment. This process lasted approximately 5 class hours. 

Digital Portfolio
The second chunk of data that I collect is actually collected by my students. Students post all of their work into a digital file organized and housed in their Google Classroom accounts. When reporting my data I often have students select, print and document their own pre-proficient work and also proficient work. This method allows students to visually self assess their own learning and report that learning in a visual manner. I use the 5 C’s strategy (Content, Craftsmanship, Creativity, Communication, Composition) to guide students through this evaluation process midway through the year and then again at the end of the year. 

20 Questions Pre and Post
This set of data regards Knowledge Data. Think of a traditional multiple choice exam. I select 20 questions mainly focused on knowledge of key terms, concepts and image recognition. It is given within the first two weeks of school and then again during the final exam. I use Google Forms to administer the test and the Flubaroo add-on to grade the assessment and then chart and report the data. This chunk of data is collected fast; It only takes the students 15-20 minutes to complete. Technology is a huge timesavers and the forms can be reused again when I reteach the same curriculum.   

Perception of Growth Survey
The final set of data I collect and report is Pre and Post Perception Data. This answers the questions: Does the student know and realize when he or she is meeting a standard?, Is he or she trying to meet a standard?, and, how does the learner perceive his or her own growth? This is where a student offers up a short narrative of his or her perceived growth. There is power not only in the numbers and visuals of student growth data, but also in the student’s own story. Confidence, knowledge, experience, goals and learning in the arts are addressed in the student’s own voice. 

Bundle up all these chunks of data in a cohesive digital dossier and present them to your administrator during your final evaluation to demonstrate your effectiveness in not one, but in four different ways. This kind of data bundling presents visual, numerical and reflective narrative that all highlight the growth and learning of your students through cohesive methods.   

For more information on the Michigan Arts Instruction and Assessment project as well as additional assessment resources, please visit